Top rated Free WordPress Lightbox plugins in 2019 & 2020

📂 Category: WP Plugins

🖺 Last modified: 2nd Jan 2020

💻 Experience: Beginner

🕑 Read Time: 8 min

Lightbox is a overlay frame that displays a larger version of a photo when the visitor clicks on it’s thumbnail. WordPress by default doesn’t come with stock lightbox functionality. Therefore, one of the first steps when developing a photography related web site it to add the lightbox function. To achieve that, there’s a wide variety of Free WordPress Lightbox plugins to choose from. We have tested and reviewed the top rated Lightbox plugins currently available for free download.

Lightbox plugins vs. Gallery plugins for WordPress

In this article we reviewed only pure Lightbox plugins. Those plugins give lightbox functionality to the default WordPress galleries and single images. They do not have any additional gallery management functions. Those plugins are intended for smaller web sites without a lot of photo galleries, which are using the default WordPress Media Library for gallery management.

On the other hand, large photography related web sites, magazines and portals will find hard to manage their photo galleries only trough the Media Library. WordPress Gallery Plugins are intended for those web sites. Gallery plugins add advanced photo gallery management functions to WordPress, and in most cases they have built in Lightbox functionality. If using a Gallery Management plugin, additional Lightbox plugins probably won’t be needed.

How we reviewed the Free WordPress Lightbox plugins

As mentioned before, we tested only pure WordPress Lightbox plugins. Firstly, we picked the most downloaded and top rated plugins from the WordPress Plugins Repository. Nevertheless, we also checked some plugins with a fair number of active installations, worth the consideration. Here’s our test criteria list:

  • number of active installations (downloads)
  • average vote
  • updates frequency and WP version compatibility
  • ease of setting up and configuring options
  • visual look of the lightbox
  • additional Lightbox functions
  • mobile phone look and behaviour
  • Lightbox loading speed (generated server requests)

So, let’s see what are the top rated free WordPress Lightbox plugins capable of, and which one is the best to satisfy your needs.

Simple Lightbox WordPress Plugin

Let’s start with Simple Lightbox By Archetyped. This plugin has trustworthy 200.000 active instalation and an average vote of 4.5 based on over 200 votes. It’s regularly updated and it’s compatible with the latest version of WordPress.

After installing the plugin you have to go trough a couple of basic and easy understandable settings. The settings are located in the Appearance WordPress menu. The lightbox looks nice and modern, with discrete direction buttons. It can display image caption and description set in the Media library, but also title tags if those previous are missing. The images appear and switch with a nice animation effect. Since there are no advanced set up options, the lightbox works and looks rather nice out of the box.

The look of Simple Lightbox plugin

Simple lightbox screenshoot

The downside the Simple Lightbox plugin is that it generates 10 server requests. It’s significantly more than the other tested lightbox plugins. Nowadays that loading speed matters, that’s an important criteria to consider. If you’re working on a project where loading speed really matters, maybe you should consider another plugin. Another downside we noticed is lack of swipe function on mobile devices in the current version. Apart from that, we realy like this lightbox plugin.

Pros

  • regularly updated
  • looks modern and works nicely
  • simple settings
  • displaying captions, descriptions, title tags
  • grouping of photos in galleries

Cons

  • significant impact on web site loading speed
  • lack of swipe function on mobile devices


Download the Plugin

 

FooBox Image Lightbox WordPress Plugin

Next on our test is FooBox Image Lightbox developed by FooPlugins. This free lightbox plugin has trusty 100.000 active instalations, but the average vote of 3.5 is one of the lowest in our test. Foobox Image Lightbox is frequently updated and compatible with the latest WordPress verison.

After instalation, Foobox Image Lightbox gets its own tab in the WordPress Dashboard menu. There you can customize a couple of simple settings and the lightbox is ready to go. The lightbox looks good and works nicely. It groups images by gallery by default and it shows image information such as caption and image title. This plugin works nicely on mobile phones too, and there’s a swipe function too. Direction buttons on phones are located on the top of the screen which makes them hard to spot at first sight.

The look of Foobox Image Lightbox plugin

Foobox Image Lightbox screenshoot

Foobox Image Lightbox plugin generates 3 server requests, so it won’t significantly affect the web site loading speed. We have noticed no significant downsides of this plugin. It should be taken in consideration seriously, no matter the mediocre average vote.

Pros

  • regularly updated
  • regularly updated
  • looks and works nicely
  • simple settings
  • displaying captions and title tags
  • grouping of photos in galleries
  • swipe function on mobile phones
  • lightweight

Cons

  • location of navigation buttons on mobile devices


Download the Plugin

 

Easy FancyBox Free Lightbox Plugin

With impressive 300.000 active instalations, Easy FancyBox by RavanH is definitly the most used free lightbox plugin for WordPress. With an 4.5 average vote it is also one of the best rated lightbox plugins available. The plugin is regulary updated and compatible with the latest version of Worpdress.

Upon installation, Easy FancyBox settings are added to the WordPress default Media settings page. There’s slightly more options to set up then what we’ve seen on other free lightbox plugins. Even more settings are available in the PRO version of this plugin. The visual appearance of the lightbox is elegant, but maybe slightly outdated, mostly because of the rather small navigaton buttons. Easy FancyBox lightbox works nicely, groups photos by gallery and displays image’s title or alt tag content. This plugins generates 3 server requests, wihich is good and doesn’t affect the web site loading speed significantly.

Free WordPress Lightbox plugins - FancyBox

Easy FancyBox screenshoot

A downside of this plugin is lack of support for swipe functionality on mobile devices. Also, the image description font is too big and it covers a bit too much of the photo. We’re looking forward for new versions of Easy FancyBox with this issues solved and maybe a refreshed appearance also.

Pros

  • regularly updated
  • regularly updated
  • works well
  • displaying alt and title tags
  • grouping of photos by galleries
  • lightweight

Cons

  • slightly outdated appearance
  • lack swipe function on mobile devices
  • too big text overlay on mobile phones


Download the Plugin

 

FancyBox lightbox plugin for WordPress

FancyBox By Colorlib is another popular free lightbox plugin with over 100.000 active instalations. It scores a 4.5 average vote. It’s compatible with the latest version of WordPress and frequently updated.

This lightbox plugins comes with a wide variety of customizable options. The settings page is very nice styled with options grouped in tabs which makes it easier to set ’em up. The lightbox looks nice in a minimalistic way. Unlike the competitors, this lightbox plugin offers a thumbnail navigation which can be turend on in the lightbox toolbox. Some will find this feature useful in their project. Another great feature of this lightbox plugin is it’s lightweight. It generates only 2 server requests, which means it almost doesn’t affect the loading speed at all.

The look of FancyBox Lightbox plugin by Colorlib

FancyBox by Colorlib screenshoot

We noticed a couple of downsides which we hope will be fixed in the further versions. Fistly, displaying of image captions, titles and description doesn’t work well each time. Secondly, photos are grouped by galleries only if added as Gutenberg blocks. And finally, there’s no swipe function on mobile devices. This is to be taken in consideration even tough this plugin has some grat features.

Pros

  • regularly updated
  • lots of customizable options
  • minimalistic look
  • thumbnail navigation
  • zoom button
  • very lightweight

Cons

  • displaying of titles and captions doesn’t work well
  • groups galleries only if set as Gutenberg blocks
  • lack of swipe function on mobile devices


Download the Plugin

 

WP jQuery Lightbox plugin for WordPress

WP jQuery Lightbox by Ulf Benjaminsson has decent 70000 active installations and the average vote of 4.5. This free lightbox plugin is not updated that often, but works well with the latest version of WordPress.

With only a couple of basic settings to customize, it takes less tan a minute to set it up. The lightbox looks decent and modern, and it discretely displays image information such as captions, titles and alt tags. It’s possible to display a image download link, which some could find useful. WP jQuery Lightbox works well on mobile devices too, and it supports swipe gestures. With only 3 generated server requests it won’t significantly affect the web site loading speed.

The look of WP jQuery Lightbox plugin

WP jQuery Lightbox screenshoot

Only downside we noticed is that the plugin doesn’t group images by galeries automatically. Grouping is possible by adding group tags to gallery shortcodes manually.

Pros

  • simple and quick set up
  • decent look
  • image download link
  • swipe images on mobile devices
  • lightweight

Cons

  • not frequently updated
  • no automatic image grouping, only manual


Download the Plugin

 

WP Featherlight – A Simple jQuery Lightbox for WordPress

The last but not the least, WP Featherlight by Cipher is the only free WordPress ligtbox plugin in our test voted 5/5 by over 70 developers. It has over 60.000 active installations and even tough not regularly updated, it works well with the latest WordPress version.

Lovers of minimalism will adore this plugin. It comes with no settings at all and works perfectly out of the box. WP Featherlight lightbox looks minimalistic and elegant. The plugin groups photos by galleries by default and displays the image caption if it exists. It should display image title too, but in our test it didn’t. The lightbox works perfectly on mobile devices too, with support for swipe gestures. As expected from it’s name this lightbox plugin is very lightweight. It generates only 2 server requests, which won’t affect the loading speed of your web site at all.

Free WordPress Lightbox plugins - WP Featherlight

WP Featherlight Lightbox screenshoot

While testing this plugin we haven’t noticed any significant downsides.

Pros

  • no setting up, works perfectly out of the box
  • minimalistic look
  • automatic image grouping by galleries
  • caption display
  • swipe images on mobile devices
  • very lightweight

Cons

  • not frequently updated
  • title tag display didn’t work


Download the Plugin

 

Top rated Free WordPress Lightbox plugins: Conclusion

Each of the free WordPress lightbox plugins we tesed have upsides and downsides. Depending on each specific development project, one plugin will do it’s job better than the rest. It’s important to analyze the pros and cons of each plugin and then decide which one suits your needs best. Instead of declaring an overall winner, here’s a list of suggestions to make your decision easier:

  • FooBox Image Lightbox: most balanced plugin, suitable for most projects
  • WP Featherlight: perfect if you need a simple minimalistic solution
  • Simple Lightbox: excelent lightbox if you don’t need swipe and loading speed doesn’t matter
  • Fancybox by Colorlib: for those who want a thumbnail navigation in their lightbox
  • WP jQuery Lightbox: download images from the lightbox with one click
  • Easy Fancybox: another good lightbox if you don’t need the swipe function